ECMO provides life support when heart, lungs aren’t working

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HCMC’s ECMO program was recently recognized by ELSO

Oxygen is essential to life, and we can thank the heart and lungs for perfecting its delivery throughout our bodies. But what happens when conditions make these organs both unable to perform their job and not respond to standard life-saving measures in the Intensive Care Unit? That’s when ECMO — extracorporeal membrane oxygenation – can help. ECMO is another advanced treatment available at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) to help patients recover from critical illness and in some cases, injury.

“When other life support methods have not worked, ECMO can help sustain patients with acute respiratory or cardiac failure,” explains Dr. Matthew Prekker, pulmonary/critical care and emergency physician at HCMC. “It essentially bypasses the lungs and or the heart to provide oxygenated blood to the tissues via a pump and special membrane outside the body.”

The ECMO process can also be used to stabilize patients in cardiac arrest by returning the oxygenated blood directly into the arteries leading to the heart and brain.

“Near-drowning, chest trauma, smoke inhalation and even cardiac arrest patients may benefit from this evolving, life-saving intervention,” says Dr. Prekker.

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ECMO patients are monitored continuously 

Patients receiving ECMO life support are cared for in the Surgical ICU under the direction of cardiovascular surgeons and critical care physicians.

Patients are monitored continuously by specially trained ICU nurses who collaborate with certified perfusionists and respiratory therapists.

HCMC’s ECMO team cares for patients from hospitals throughout the region, and often accompanies patients during transport to ensure the seamless delivery of care.

“ECMO has received a lot of attention from prehospital and hospital clinicians looking for a novel way to rescue and support a patient when traditional things we do aren’t working, it is developing into a game changer in select patients.”

HCMC has been designated as on the Pathway to Excellence in Life Support by achieving the Silver Level for its Extracorporeal Life Support Program by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO). This recognizes its efforts to provide bedside cardio-respiratory support to critically-ill patients utilizing ECMO.

For more information about ECMO as an alternative strategy for life support for adult and pediatric patients, go to hcmc.org.

Hennepin County Medical Center is a nationally recognized Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota. It is operated by Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc., a subsidiary corporation of Hennepin County. The comprehensive academic medical center and public teaching hospital and clinic system includes a 484-bed acute care hospital, primary care and specialty clinics located in Minneapolis and surrounding suburban communities, as well as home care and hospice services.

Keeping a stick on the ice

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Dr. Daniel DiBardino
is a double board-certified physician in both adult and congenital cardiothoracic surgery – in other words, he fixes hearts and where they live – both big and small.

“Every heart is precious and I understand the enormous responsibility of caring for every inch of this important organ,” Dr. DiBardino explains, “that’s why I’m so passionate about providing the most advanced surgical care to all patients with heart disease.”

Using extensive training from some of the best centers in the U.S. including Harvard Medical School and the University of Michigan, Dr. DiBardino works with Dr. Domenico Calcaterra, the Chief of Cardiothoracic Care at HCMC, to provide cutting edge care to patients such as valve repair and replacement, coronary bypass surgery, ECMO, and cardiothoracic trauma care. He’s also currently completing advanced training at the Minneapolis Heart Institute in minimally invasive valve surgery and heart transplant surgery.
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In 2010, Dr. DiBardino practiced at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he was featured in an episode of the TV series, Boston Med. But “Dr. DiBar” (as he was called on the show) feels right at home here in the State of Hockey – both on and off the ice. That’s right, he plays the sport and has already connected with some colleagues to chase pucks.

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Ashley and Daniel DiBardino

“I’ve been playing hockey for 30 years, including in areas where it’s not as popular,” he says. “It’s great to be able to live and work in Minnesota where everyone knows the game and there are so many opportunities to skate, watch hockey and be a hockey fan.”

Dr. DiBardino and his wife, Ashley, live in the Mill District/North Loop area of Minneapolis with their Papillon-mix dog, Gizmo. When he’s not working (or skating), Dr. DiBardino enjoys lifting weights at the gym, taking Gizmo for walks, and finding new places to eat out for dinner. For more information about Dr. DiBardino, check out the recent blog written by Dr. David Hilden after Dr. DiBardino was a guest on his radio show. The post can be found at myhealthymatters.org.

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Gizmo DiBardino